An Eastern Jackson County resident who wants to be or who is a cowboy has Gary Fletcher to thank. In February, Fletcher will celebrate 39 years of western wear and supply business in Blue Springs, which isn’t exactly Deadwood.

About the business: Fletcher’s J Bar S Western Wear, 1209 S.W. U.S. 40, Blue Springs, 816-229-9829

About the owner, Gary Fletcher: Most everyone wanted to be a cowboy at one time or another, and some are.

An Eastern Jackson County resident who wants to be or who is a cowboy has Gary Fletcher to thank. In February, Fletcher will celebrate 39 years of western wear and supply business in Blue Springs, which isn’t exactly Deadwood.

While not a former or practicing cowboy, Fletcher does love the lifestyle.

“I was always interested in horses, western wear,” he said. “It intrigued me. Everyone wanted to be a cowboy, you know?”

In the early 1970s, Fletcher was finishing his career in insurance at Prudential Insurance Co. He looked in  few areas and eventually made his decision, acquiring what was at the time a western wear business.

It was during the 1970s when western stores were plentiful throughout the area. There were three in Blue Springs at one time – a reflection of the times, as those who lived beyond the major cities often had large properties and the animals that went with it.

Movies, specifically urban cowboy movies, ushered in a new way of looking at the cowboy, Fletcher said. Clubs and halls crowded the area, said Fletcher.

“Back then there were many clubs,” he said. “A big one  I remember was the Cactus Moon. It was a dance hall at the Independence Center. It was an interesting time.”

But styles change. The clubs closed and the interest in cowboys began to wane.

Not completely, though.

Fletcher’s continues to attract all kinds of people interested in western wear and supplies. There are the real cowboys, trail riders, horse owners, ropers, rodeo people and that man who lives in an apartment and who just happens to wear a cowboy hat.

“We get them all,” Fletcher said. “We carry a full line of western wear, supplies, and equipment. We’re one of the only – if not the only – one in the area.”

Fletcher swears that even in a bad economy, western wear is a growing business.

“We’re doing well,” he said. “There aren’t many of us left, really. Most are the so-called western stores and the stores in the mall, but they don’t have the things I do in here. We pretty much have it all.”

What’s in store for the future? To be blunt, Fletcher would like to retire.

At 72, Fletcher feels like – and is probably right – he should retire. Three years ago he was diagnosed with colon cancer, and after undergoing treatment, he beat it.

But then it returned last April.

“When you get cancer, your whole outlook on life... it changes.”

He’s put the word out about selling the business, and there has been interest. But even a healthy business at the tail-end of a recession isn’t very attractive, he said.

“Probably not the best time to get a loan,” he said.

So Fletcher has a few goals: beat his cancer and get  the store’s future in order, which is Fletcher’s way of saying that he wants to get his affairs in order.

“Who knows what could happen to me,” he said, adding: “I certainly don’t want the store to close down, so maybe the right person will come along.”

If you go and special deals: Fletcher has a lot of inventory that he wants to sell by the end of the year – like any store. He stressed that it’s easier just to come in and see for yourself.

Of boots – Fletcher said other stores can’t compete. He has as many as 100 styles of men’s boots and 40 styles for women.

He also sells western-style suits for men, children’s clothing and authentic 1800s clothing.

Store hours: 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday; Noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday